Saturday, March 8, 2014

Coding workshop!

Saturday, March 15
2:00-5:00 p.m. @ Central Library:



LEARN HTML and CSS!
Wanna be a game / website / app designer? Then YOU need this workshop!

Taught by Newton Lee, a professor of Media Technology at Woodbury University! This is a BYOLT (bring your own laptop or tablet) event for TEENS ONLY (Grades 6-12).

YOU MUST SIGN UP! Email melliott@burbankca.gov, because space is limited!

Friday, March 7, 2014

What we're reading: Suspense

 I read two YA novels this past weekend, both of which could be classified as suspense. Although one of the hallmarks of suspense is that you draaaaaw it ouuuuuuut as long as possible, sometimes I feel like authors verge over the line from suspense to sheer frustration! Once you have given enough clues to let the reader guess what's going on, then it may be time to wrap it up--otherwise, it becomes an exercise in patience, waiting for the big reveal. Perhaps these writers haven't yet achieved the expertise to sense when this moment comes, or maybe it's their editors telling them to prolong the experience--I'm not sure. Anyway, the two books I read were good--well written, well plotted, great characters--but the frustration level I experienced while waiting for the plots to resolve made me consider them less than favorites.

Premeditated    
by Josin L. McQuein
336 pages

Here's the jacket copy, which I think is effective (and also accurate)--it persuaded me to read the book!
A week ago, Dinah’s cousin Claire cut her wrists.

Five days ago, Dinah found Claire’s diary and discovered why.

Three days ago, Dinah stopped crying and came up with a plan.

Two days ago, she ditched her piercings and bleached the black dye from her hair.

Yesterday, knee socks and uniform plaid became a predator’s camouflage.

Today, she’ll find the boy who broke Claire.

By tomorrow, he’ll wish he were dead.

I liked Dinah a lot. Her transformation from goth girl to prep school chick was pretty funny, and her inner monologue was entertaining. I also liked the guys she encounters there--they are interesting and well developed characters. The story was good. The only problem I had with the book was, I figured out the "secret" about halfway through, and then spent the second half of the book (a long 160 pages) impatiently waiting for the protagonist to do so as well! I would have liked it more (and rated it higher) if the author had come up with a way to keep the secret a secret from ME a little longer. My score: 3.5. And kudos for the cover!

Just a side note: Another in the long line of "boarding school" or "private school" books--what is the fascination that teens and teen authors have with this meme?

The Killing Woods
by Lucy Christopher (author of Stolen)
369 pages
 
Emily's house backs up to a forest, in which she and her father (a veteran with PTSD) have shared many lazy afternoons bird-watching, looking for deer, and enjoying nature. One night, in the middle of a thunderstorm, her father, who has been in a dark mood and hiding out for a few days, walks out of the woods carrying the body of Ashlee, a girl from Emily's school. Everyone jumps to the conclusion that he killed her, but Emily just doesn't believe it. Desperate to find out who else could be the murderer, Emily starts digging around for clues.

Meanwhile, Damon, Ashlee's boyfriend, has a secret--not about the murder, but about who else was in the woods with Ashlee and what they were up to. Problem is, he got so drunk that night that he has forgotten everything that happened after a certain point...

This was a solid thriller. It alternates between the two points of view--Emily's and Damon's--and is mostly stream-of-consciousness narration by both. It made me crazy that all the different people go around talking to themselves inside their heads, speculating about the actions of others but never just speaking up and ASKING them. I know that's the way to prolong the suspense, but by the end it made me tired. Still, this had staying power, individual voices, and an interesting conclusion. I liked it well enough that I now want to go back and read her first book, Stolen.  My rating: 4.


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Tonight!


Holly Goldberg Sloan!
7:00 p.m. at Buena Vista branch!


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Thursday!

This Thursday night, at 7:00 p.m. at the Buena Vista branch, is our highly anticipated visit from young adult author HOLLY GOLDBERG SLOAN! If you haven't read her books, then you SHOULD (and this event is the perfect place to buy them, at a reduced price, and get them autographed!); if you HAVE read her books, then we KNOW you will want to meet her!


    


Her first book, I'll Be There, received an 8.75 rating from our 8+9 Book Club, and a 9 rating from our 10-12 Book Club! (In case you were wondering, that almost NEVER happens--they are all pretty picky about their reading!) Her second book is also awesome. (Take it from me. And Anarda.) So JOIN US on THURSDAY NIGHT AT 7:00! (This is a teen-sponsored program, but all are welcome.)

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Teen review: The Janie Books

Title: The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline B. Cooney
Pages: 184
Genre: Mystery
Ages best suited for: 12 up
Part of Series: Yes
Reviewed by: Camryn, 9th grade

S Y N O P S I S :
Janie Johnson, a 15-year-old, sees a missing child’s picture on the back of a milk carton. She recognizes the picture and soon comes to the conclusion that she is the little girl in the photo. The rest of the book’s story line is about her attempt to discover who she is, where she came from, and who really are her biological parents.

R E V I E W :
This book was BORING! When I picked it up, I figured it would be a fast read, but boy was I wrong. The plot line seems like it would be interesting, but it tended to get lengthy and eventually turned into a convoluted mess. The book drags on, and it has a very disappointing and unsatisfactory ending. It leaves you hanging, but in a bad way. At the end of the book, the reader is given the first chapter of Whatever Happened to Janie, the second book in the series and a preview of the third book, The Voice on the Radio. (Editor's note: There was a fourth book, What Janie Found.)

Kellie Martin
One thing that caught my interest to even buy the book was its cover. The cover is haunting, mysterious and immediately catches your eye. In my personal opinion, it falsely represents the book by making it seem more interesting than it really is. The only thing about the book I can’t bash is the skeleton outline of the story itself.

I think the story line would fit better and move more smoothly if it was adapted into a film version rather than just the book alone. To sum it all up, it has an intriguing story, but falls terribly short. My rating: 2

Editor's note: We don't usually publish negative reviews, so I hesitated to feature Camryn's. But it was an honest opinion, and I wanted to use it to point up how far young adult fiction has come in the past 25 years. Caroline Cooney's books are great examples of early teen fiction, and (although I don't personally agree with Camryn that this is a terrible book) serve to illustrate that authors of YA books have taken a quantum leap as regards creativity of subject matter. Back in the '80s and '90s, there wasn't a lot of variety in teen fiction, and people hadn't quite figured out how to write specifically for teens. So the use of context might be helpful to see why this book had massive popularity when it first came out, but might not stand the test of time for some teens who read it today.

I also wanted to mention that others agreed with Camryn that the premise was an interesting one and would adapt smoothly into a movie. The TV movie was made in 1995, starring Kellie Martin. Here is a link to watch the first half of the movie on YouTube; the second half can be reached from there.

Regarding her comments about the cover, she must be referring to the 2013 edition of the book, since the previous three certainly don't fit her description of "haunting and mysterious." Here they all are:




SEQUEL SURPRISE: Also of interest to those who choose to read this series is that there is now a fifth book, Janie Face to Face, which catches up with Janie when she's in college. Since the other books were written in 1990, 1993, 1996, and 2000, it would be interesting to see how this fourth book, written considerably more than a decade later in 2013, fits in! The publishers obviously gave all four original books a face lift to go with the new one, by re-releasing them in complementary covers. Despite their contemporary look, they give a nod to when they were written by using a land line telephone and an old box radio in the cover photos.